Remediating has been a challenge, in large part because I love to write, in the old-fashioned sense of the word: using a pen to put text in a notebook or a computer to put text on a screen. I’m not nearly as comfortable or experienced at composing in other media. So when the challenge of remediating our texts appeared on Monday, I was initially resistant. Even when Anna Smith suggested remediating our inquiry questions, I was skeptical: wouldn’t this be a distraction or detour from the work I wanted to do this summer?
However, I’ve learned that good things usually happen when I push myself out of my comfort zone, so I resisted my urge to dismiss the idea of remediation in favor of doing my own thing. The Make With Me, as I mentioned in my last post, helped me clarify what I might do: use mapping to consider the power relationships at my school.
As the week went on, the thinking behind my make proved to me much more interesting – to me, at any rate – than the make itself. Though I looked at a few different online mapping options, I decided in the end to make an old-fashioned pen-and-paper map.
The second attempt does a better job, I think, of showing my perception of power at the school, though I realized after completing the map that I switched from circles to rectangles without any particular reason. Multiple rings in a circle shows more power. The size of the circle or rectangle does not correlate to increased power, however.
I think I’m going to create a third map that uses hierarchical proportion to show who has more power.
I also should note that these maps only account for people who work at or attend the school as well as the families who send their children to our school. It does not include other actors who exert power – e.g., district administrators, board members, outside consultants, the county office of education, lawmakers, vendors…
As I thought about the power relationships at my school, in addition to realizing that it’s extremely difficult to represent the complex manifestations of power, I realized that there are more questions that I might consider in my inquiry.
What would happen if I mapped my view of the power relationships at my school? What would happen if I asked my students about their perceptions of these power relations? Will these perceptions change if I give students more autonomy in my classroom?
What do we mean when we ask “who has power in our school?” E.g., are we talking about power over resources? Power over expected outcomes? Power over evaluation and “gatekeeping”? All of the above? How might my inquiry change depending on which aspect of power I am considering?
To what degree do people cede power to others at our school? If teachers/administrators/staff cede power to students and families, will this affect outcomes positively?
Can I use sociogramming techniques to learn about how my students perceive our school? Can I use these methods to learn more about what students and their families want from school? Would this lead to a greater democratization of expected outcomes?
I’ve also been thinking about Chapter 5 of Shagoury & Power’s The Art of Classroom Inquiry, which uses the term “distant teachers” (from Vera John-Steiner’s Notebooks of the Mind) to describe the texts we read to inform our research. In addition to “distant teachers” in education, Shagoury & Power point out that we can learn from other fields as well. I’ve been reading Margaret Collins Weitz’s Sisters in the Resistance, and this week I read the obituary of Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 children from the Nazis in Czechoslovakia in 1938-1939.
This has led me to ask some questions about how this reading can inform my inquiry. For example, the incredible bravery and selflessness of Winton and résistantes such as Lucie Aubrac and Marie-Hélène Lefaucheux lead me to ask:
What are the possibilities of human achievement?
How can I learn about my own potential as a human being from these stories?
How can learning about people we admire inform and sustain our efforts to build communities that are humane and compassionate?